CUMMINGTON — Seeking the second-highest position in Massachusetts’ executive branch, state Rep. Tami Gouveia says she brings an approach that puts families and their health at the center.

A Democrat running for lieutenant governor in 2022, Gouveia has served in the Massachusetts House since 2019 after a 25-year career in public health and social work. Her campaign calls for expanding access to housing and health care, including through establishing Medicare for All in Massachusetts. The Acton resident, who earned a doctorate in public health from Boston University in 2020, also wants to ramp up public investments in education, the social safety net and jobs that align with a clean energy transition.

“I just think in a state that has the resources we have here, the knowledge base that we have here and the culture that we have here, we could be doing so much better by our families,” Gouveia, who announced her candidacy in a June 7 video, said in a Friday interview at the Old Creamery Co-op in Cummington. “We don’t center families enough in the decision that we make. We don’t center people’s health and well-being in those decisions, either.”

Gouveia made her first stop as a candidate in Western Massachusetts, visiting North Adams, Pittsfield and Williamstown in Berkshire County.

In Cummington, Gouveia saw a man in a wheelchair push himself along the highway on a trip to the grocery store. During an earlier trip to the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts in South Hadley, she heard that many in Western Massachusetts struggle to get to food sources if they cannot afford to buy and maintain a car.

Addressing such transportation gaps, Gouveia said, requires a public health focus.

“If you have to walk two miles to go get food, that’s a burden,” Gouveia said, calling transportation a “public good” and a key component of public health. “Whether you need to get to a doctor’s appointment or you need to get to work or school, you need a way to get there.”

Greater investments in regional transit authorities as well as microtransit and on-demand options, Gouveia said, can help connect more residents with places where they can satisfy their everyday needs. She also supports passenger rail, including a proposal to connect Pittsfield and Boston by way of Springfield, as both a strategy to benefit commuters as well as reduce emissions.

“East-West rail, assuming that we’re going to be able to get it going and build it, it needs to be green, it needs to be reliable and it needs to go frequently to really make it worth it for people,” Gouveia said.

Rather than view each issue in a silo, Gouveia said she favors a “systems approach” to policy. On housing, for example, she believes it is necessary to build units near transportation hubs and units with low or no emissions. She also supports building more multifamily units and passing a local option real estate transfer fee, which would allow cities and towns to put an additional tax on the sale of high-end homes and reinvest those funds in affordable housing.

Were she to serve as lieutenant governor, Gouveia said she would work behind the scenes as a “partner” for communities and a “bridge” to the corner office, “making sure that we’re setting folks up for success.”

She contrasts that approach with the one taken by the administration of Gov. Charlie Baker on the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. Relying on mass vaccination sites, Gouveia said, not only hurt residents who cannot drive but also shortchanged local public health officials who were prepared for the pandemic and knew their communities the best.

“The way that problems manifest can be similar in different parts of the state, but the solutions will be very different,” said Gouveia, who grew up in Lowell, which she said experienced similar effects to much of Berkshire County when industrial jobs left town during her teenage years. “We need to be very focused on what’s going to help people in their community be able to make the decisions around those solutions.”

While Gouveia is the only declared candidate for the Democratic lieutenant governor nomination, Western Massachusetts itself is home to two state senators who some see as possible candidates. State Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, is deciding between running for lieutenant governor or seeking reelection. State Sen. Eric Lesser, D-Longmeadow, is thought to be a possible candidate either for lieutenant governor or attorney general.

Gouveia had around $64,000 in her campaign account as of June 30, while Hinds had just over $150,000 and Lesser had over $572,000, according to the Office of Campaign in Political Finance.

For her campaign manager, Gouveia picked a fellow graduate of Mount Holyoke College in Kristen Elechko, a Northampton-based activist who, like many others working on Gouveia’s campaign, played a role in orchestrating U.S. Sen Ed Markey’s 2020 reelection victory. Closely aligned with left-leaning Democrats, Gouveia already boasts endorsements from progressive leaders such as state Sen. Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton, and state Rep. Nika Elugardo, D-Boston.

Gouveia plans to return to the Berkshires before the September 2022 primary, she said, to focus more on Pittsfield and Southern Berkshire County.

Danny Jin, a Report for America corps member, is The Eagle’s Statehouse news reporter. He can be reached at djin@berkshireeagle.com, @djinreports on Twitter and 413-496-6221.

Statehouse reporter

Danny Jin is the Eagle's Statehouse reporter. A graduate of Williams College, he previously interned at The Eagle and The Christian Science Monitor.